By BRIAN MERSHON
Since the official May 19 statement from the Holy See suspending Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, from all public ministry, more information has become available to shed light on the case from additional sources. The following letter and interview, a new charge of sexual abuse against Fr. Maciel, is an exclusive to The Wanderer.
Francisco Gonzalez-Parga, a former priest and seminarian with the Legionaries of Christ for 20 years, wrote an open letter to Fr. Juan Pedro Oriol, LC, and Messrs. Jorge Suarez Huizare and Arturo Lucke Gracian, after reading an article in which Fr. Oriol referred to the now-suspended Fr. Maciel as â€œa good, integral, and loyal man.â€� The public letter appeared on July 6, in the El Informador, a Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, newspaper. It was in response to an article headlined â€œDiscover the Truth,â€� in the Mexican newspaper the Mural.
In an interview with The Wanderer, Gonzalez-Parga said the reason he has come public now is that he thought it was necessary due to â€œthe obstinacy and lack of integrity of the Legionaries in their reactions to the sentence issued from the Vaticanâ€� and because of â€œtheir efforts to cover up the truth and to protect Fr. Maciel,â€� he said. â€œI thought it was necessary to put an end to that.â€�
Gonzalez-Parga said he was initially sexually abused by Fr. Maciel when he was 15 years old, and that he â€œcannot numberâ€� the actual instances. He also named a dozen ex-priests, seminarians and/or men who have worked for, or who still work for, the Legion whom he knows were also sexually abused by Fr. Maciel.
Besides the numerous instances of reported sexual abuse by the suspended Fr. Maciel, Gonzalez-Parga told The Wanderer that he knew firsthand of two other priests in the Legion who he claims have also sexually abused boys. He named Fr. Guillermo Izquierdo and Fr. Salvador Maciel, no relation to Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the order who was recently suspended.
Gonzalez-Parga was ordained to the Legion by Pope Paul VI in St. Peterâ€™s Basilica on July 6, 1966. He said he left the priesthood in 1970 and has struggled with physical and psychological health issues ever since. He served the Legion as prefect of postulates (candidates to the novitiate) in Ontaneda, Spain. Later, he was assistant of the master of novices in Ireland for three years and prefect of studies in the College of Rome. He also spent time serving the Holy See in the Sacred Congregation for Bishops.
Gonzalez-Parga was one of several new alleged victims of Fr. Maciel who was interviewed by Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the Holy Seeâ€™s promoter of justice from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). During the week of April 2, 2005, Msgr. Scicluna interviewed new alleged victims of Fr. Maciel, including Francisco Gonzalez-Parga, Carlos de la Isla, and Salvador Andrade. Another alleged victim, Juan Jose Gonzalez, was not personally interviewed, but instead issued a sworn statement to the CDF.
Gonzalez-Pargaâ€™s unedited letter follows:
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I read your review of the film, â€œThe Da Vinci Code,â€� and I am in complete agreement. However, I was struck by your comment in which, on the one hand, regarding Fr. Marcial Maciel, you refer to him as â€œa good, upright and loyal man.â€� On the other hand, you suggest to your readers that they â€œalways seek to discover the truth because only through truth are they made free and happy.â€�
In the same spirit of love for the truth which you recommend, I wish to inform you that I was a priest of the Legionaries of Christ. In the twenty years devoted to work and study when I belonged to the Legion, I obtained a degree in philosophy and a doctorate in theology from the Gregorian University and was Prefect of Studies at the Legionaries of Christ College of Higher Studies in Rome.
Now in the spirit of helping you also to find the truth, I want you to know that at a young age I was a victim of outright sexual abuse, perpetrated in a deceitful and premeditated way, by Fr. Maciel. For this reason and in spite of having been ordained a priest in Rome by then Pope Paul VI [From GonzÃ¡lez-Pargaâ€™s statement above in an interview with this writer: â€œI was ordained a priest in July 1966 by Pope Paul VI in the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome.â€�], I felt compelled to abandon the Legion and the priesthood, taking with me all the moral and psychological damage that you might imagine. For many years I have lived with illness, have been in danger of losing my life, and have experienced continual depression as a result of the abuse committed against my person by Fr. Maciel. Even now I am suffering from the consequences.
But this is only my story. What about the 100 or more cases reported under sworn oath to the Holy See? I have since forgiven Fr. Maciel and I hope that God enlightens him and helps him to acknowledge the grave sin he has committed against those who were his victims and their families, against society and against those Legionaries of Christ who remain members in good faith of the congregation.
I am addressing you publicly because I am faced with such deceit, falsehood and lies, and because it pains me to know that there are so many people who refuse to accept the truth and still others who â€œimpede truth through injustice.â€� For some reason they have a need not to want to â€œsearch forâ€� the truth or to even â€œsee it.â€� Otherwise, they would realize that, if Pope Benedict XVI felt obliged for reasons of conscience to take such drastic action against Fr. Maciel by retiring him from all public practice of his priestly ministry, it is because there was sufficient evidence for him to do so â€” in spite of the dishonor such an act could bring to the Catholic Church, to the person of Pope John Paul II and to his own person, and in spite of the damage this could cause not only to the credibility of the Legionaries of Christ and to the Regnum Christi Movement, but also to the economic, political and social advantages these institutions bring to the Vatican and the Holy See.
It is the opinion of many thinking people that the slight punishment imposed on Fr. Maciel by the pope is the result of a conflict of interests arising out of the above-mentioned advantages the Legion provides to the Vatican and to the papacy. Therefore, instead of trying him for atrocious sexual crimes and abuse of power committed against young candidates for the priesthood, they have hidden him from public view so that he may live in comfortable opulence, attended by his unconditionally loyal servants from the Legion. He does so in light of the Popeâ€™s recommendation that he use his time for prayer and penitence. Fr. Maciel will need prayer and penitence because God cannot be mocked. What he needs is courage, honesty and genuine repentance in order to publicly ask for forgiveness from those he has wronged, since this is the only way to vindicate himself and his congregation, and, by so doing, compensate his victims in some slight way.
Seek the truth yourself, Father Oriol, as you advise others to do, for it is truth that will make you free and happy, as you have said. Stop participating in works of darkness, believing perhaps in good faith that you are a bearer of truth and light.
â€œBut who so shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and [that] he were drowned in the depth of the sea.â€� Matthew 18, 6.
Please feel free to contact me regarding any clarification.
Francisco GonzÃ¡lez P.
Former priest of the Legionaries of Christ
Zapopan, Jalisco (Mexico)
(Translation by REGAIN staff)
The Legionâ€™s Response
Before going to press and in the interest of fairness, The Wanderer contacted the Legion of Christ requesting a response to these allegations from either Fr. Anthony Bannon (North American superior) or Fr. Owen Kearns (publisher of National Catholic Register) regarding this new allegation, as well as their reactions to Jorge Cardinal Medina Estevezâ€™s comments following in this article.
â€œI donâ€™t think either one of our Fathers would be interested in commenting on those particular items. We have really said all we are able to say about the situation, and we are busy moving forward working on our apostolates and the work we are doing,â€� said Legion of Christ spokesman Jim Fair.
Despite the increasingly public and mounting evidence against the Legion of Christâ€™s founder, the Legion of Christ continues to claim that Fr. Maciel is completely innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever, while continuing to claim to be â€œobedientâ€� to the Holy See.
In a recent article appearing in Our Sunday Visitor, http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=20487, Legion spokesman Jim Fair was on the record as saying that he had absolutely no doubt that Fr. Maciel is innocent of accusations that he sexually abused seminarians decades ago. He said that any statements to the contrary amount to persecution of a holy man â€” the kind of persecution Jesus referred to in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, â€œBlessed are those who hate and persecute you for holinessâ€™ sake; you shall see God.â€�
GonzÃ¡lez-Parga said the Legionâ€™s comparison to Fr. Macielâ€™s suspension from public ministry with the unjustly crucified sinless Servant who died on the cross at Calvary has â€œmade me to get sick because that has been one of the most irreverent and blasphemous forms of covering up and distorting the truth.
â€œAt the same time they do not have the least sensibility to realize that they are at the same time disqualifying the Pope and the CDFâ€™s decision.â€�
To confirm this system-wide denial of any wrongdoing on the part of Fr. Maciel, the following is an excerpt from a letter issued by T. Godfrey Mackenzie, executive director of the Highlands School in Dallas, a school run by the Legionaries of Christ: â€œFr. Maciel is following the path of other saints and founders that have been accused and carried the cross of a tarnished personal reputation in the name of redemptive suffering. St. Padre Pio, St. John Bosco, and St. Teresa of Avila are examples of this path to sainthood.â€�
Michael Pennell, Ph.D., former principal of the very same Dallas-based Highlands School, offered the following interpretation of Mackenzieâ€™s statement on Maciel. The syllogism Pennell extracted from these two brief sentences follows. â€œThe major premise would be the following: Saints get persecuted even by members of the Church,â€� Pennell said. â€œThe minor premise would be that Fr. Maciel is being persecuted. The conclusion the Legion reaches of course is Fr. Maciel is a saint,â€� he said. So every person who is â€œpersecutedâ€� by the Church, even if justly, should be called a saint while on earth? If he is being unjustly persecuted, which seems to be the Legionâ€™s attitude, then how is this in keeping with their statement on being â€œobedientâ€� to the Holy See?
Of course, in Christian charity, Catholics should all hope and pray that this may be the case. We should hope and pray and work for the eternal salvation of all mankind. However, in the current circumstances, taking the public suspension of ministry into account as well as the additional commentary by Cardinal Medina Estevez which follows, the timing of such a claim might be called imprudent at best.
The dozens of accusers against Fr. Maciel might not be so enamored by this claim of his sanctity during this time, especially in light of the heinous violations they allegedly endured for decades in silence.
The Legion of Christâ€™s official statement contains the following claim: â€œFacing the accusations made against him, he declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way.â€�
So, both Fr. Maciel and the Legion of Christ continue to publicly defend Fr. Maciel as completely innocent of all wrongdoing, while also being â€œobedientâ€� to the Holy See. One Vatican source very close to the case, upon reviewing this statement, reportedly called this Fr. Maciel comparison to Jesus Christ, the sinless Lamb without spot, as â€œblasphemousâ€�!
Cardinal Medina Estevez
Jorge Cardinal Medina Estevez, the man who introduced the new Pope in April 2005, and a close confidant for years, was interviewed by SebastiÃ¡n VÃ¡squez R on the subject of Fr. Macielâ€™s suspension by La Tercera, a Chilean newspaper, which appeared in the May 25 edition. The Chilean cardinal had the following to say about the Fr. Maciel suspension:
â€œI believe that it is a decision of the Holy Father that he must have taken after taking many considerations into account. I know that he is an extremely sensitive person in his judgments who does not act in haste, so that if he took action in this way, it means that he had very serious reasons.â€�
La Terceraâ€™s reporter Vasquez interviewed Fr. John Oâ€™Reilly, a Chilean spokesman for the Legion, who affirmed he was absolutely â€œconvincedâ€� of Macielâ€™s â€œabsolute innocence.â€� When questioned by the reporter, the Chilean cardinal refused to offer any comment on Fr. Oâ€™Reillyâ€™s opinion.
He did, however, describe the suspension of Maciel as â€œan administrative, prudential, and pastoral measure,â€� according to La Tercera, â€œbecause from the point of view of canon law, a process was not opened against the religious due to his age and health.â€� Cardinal Medina Estevez said this was in order to show mercy toward an aging person in accordance with Christian charity.
Nevertheless, he insists, â€œThe Pope would never have made a decision of this type without fairly substantial reasons.â€�
â€œIt is necessary to trust the Pope and to see that if he made a decision of this type, it is because in his conscience and before God he believed it was the best solution he could give to a public and consistent problem,â€� the cardinal said.
And then perhaps to emphasize that the Holy See most likely did not give unjust punishment to a sinless man, he said, â€œWhen there is a serious deed that has good factual substance, well, measures must be taken, because nothing should prevent authority from being exercised.â€�
Sandro Magister Weighs In
A top reporter on Church issues, especially as emanating from the Holy See, as a followup to his previous articles on the Legion of Christ and the Fr. Maciel case, recently offered an informed report. This analysis compiled by Sandro Magister and written originally by editor Lorenzo Prezzi, verifies that additional new evidence against Fr. Maciel was mounting up to the time of his announced suspension. Magisterâ€™s summary of Prezziâ€™s account includes the new accuser and alleged victim, Francisco Gonzalez-Parga, whose open letter is above.
This informed account also reveals that the innocent, spotless persecuted victim-saint as presented through the Legion of Christâ€™s numerous public responses, is not consistent with the Holy Seeâ€™s serious disciplinary action against Fr. Maciel.
Magisterâ€™s summary of Prezziâ€™s analysis states:
â€œTwo months since the canonical decision from the Vatican on Marcial Maciel Degollado, 86-year-old founder of the Legionaries of Christ, the biweekly magazine Il Regno (n. 12/2006, 6/15/06) of the Dehonian order, has dedicated three pages of commentary on the case under the signature of its editor, Lorenzo Prezzi.
â€œThe analysis is the first one published in depth about the case in the Catholic media. Prezzi confirms the amplitude of the investigation and the great number of Macielâ€™s accusers:
â€œ â€˜In 2005, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent an investigator, Fr. Charles Scicluna, to the USA in order to verify the charges made in written depositions. He spoke first with Juan Vaca, then with Paul Lennon, Carlos de Isla, Salvador Andrade, Francisco Gonzales-Parga, JosÃ© Olvera, Alejandro Espinosa, and some 30 other witnesses. There were reportedly another 20 witnesses ready to speak out. All of the material gathered was brought to Rome, where it was studied and weighed [along with previous material obtained].â€™
â€œThe article underscores that â€˜at present, the Holy See, the Legionaries, and bishops have converged in emphasizing the charism of the foundation itself as opposed to the charism of its founder, the fruits of the Legionâ€™s apostolate rather than the personal intuitions of Fr. Maciel,â€™ and observes that â€˜this is not unprecedented in the history of religious orders.â€™
â€œAs for future developments within the Legion, Prezzi writes: â€˜Certainly, the Vatican censure will impose some discontinuity. This may be manifested in the choice of persons who will govern the Legion or in interventions (internal and external) regarding its formative system; and in particular, on two adjunctive vows which seemed to have been tailored specifically for an institutional figure reluctant to be governed by normal rules of control over all other religious families.â€™
â€œPrezzi summarizes those two adjunctive rules, which he thinks need to be modified, as â€˜Superiors must not be criticizedâ€™ and â€˜One must not aspire to internal tasks [i.e., within the movement].â€™
â€œThe article does not comment on the objections and protests from some of Macielâ€™s accusers to the fact that the Vatican decided to sanction Fr. Maciel without proceeding with a canonical trial.
â€œHowever, the Code of Canon Law allows the Curia to do this. Canon 1342 starts this way: â€˜Occasionally, if just reasons weigh against proceeding with a juridical trial, the penalty may be imposed or declared by extra-judicial decree.â€™
â€œAnd canon 1339 says that an extra-judicial penalty may be imposed on any person â€˜about whom an investigation made (results in) the serious suspicion of having committed the offense.â€™ That is exactly what is found in the Vatican communiquÃ© dated May 19, 2006.
â€œ â€˜After having placed the results of the investigation under careful study, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the direction of its new Prefect, His Eminence, Cardinal William Joseph Levada, has decided â€” taking into account the advanced age of the Rev. Maciel as well as his delicate state of health â€” to renounce a canonical trial and to invite the Father to a private life of prayer and penitence, renouncing any public ministry. The Holy Father has approved these decisionsâ€™.â€�